Hurricanes: More than a 'category'

Wind speeds aren't the only indicator of a hurricane's potential to cause serious harm or damage to your home and family. 

Labor Day weekend is typically a time for many of us to relax...but not this year. Hurricane Dorian slowed to a crawl as it made landfall in the Bahamas as a devastating Category 5 storm. The storm lurked off the Southeast coast for days, with residents scrambling to make last minute preparations. Although Dorian weakened as it moved northward, the once compact storm expanded, and tropical storm force winds were felt far from the storm’s center. 

As a Broadcast Meteorologist, I was out covering the storm, and one North Carolina couple told me that they "didn’t worry about a hurricane unless it was a category 4 or 5." This concerned me. We must remember that the Saffir-Simpson Scale only factors in the wind speed; not storm surge, rainfall or waves. Storm surge is the greatest threat from tropical cyclones. 

Storm surge is sea water pushed up and over normally dry land due to strong winds around a tropical cyclone or coastal system. Although storm surge pushes ashore at 5 mph or less, water is 800 times denser than air, making the force of the water nearly equivalent to category 3 force winds! To put this in perspective, Hurricane Sandy, which made landfall in the Northeastern U.S. as a post-tropical cyclone with category 1 force winds, was one of the most damaging (and costliest!) storms in U.S. history as a result of the storm surge.

Hurricane Dorian made landfall in the United States the morning of September 6th in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina as a category 1 storm. 4 to 7 ft. storm surge caused residents of Ocracoke Island, NC to flee to their attics and roofs to be rescued from being swept away by flood waters. In addition to storm surge, over 10 inches of rain fell in some areas, causing additional flooding. A saturated ground combined with strong winds led to downed trees and power lines, leaving many residents in the Southeast without power.  

In the end, Hurricane Dorian impacted people from the Bahamas north into Nova Scotia. More than 70,000 people in the Bahamas were left homeless. If you're looking to help those affected by Dorian, consider donating money or blood. But before you donate, make sure you're giving to a reputable charity:

  • Established charities are registered with the IRS as a 501(c)(3) and can be found here.
  • Never feel pressured to donate over the phone. All reputable charities should allow for donations through a website. 
  • Use Paypal or a credit card when making online donations and never pay via wire transfer.
  • Never provide your social security number, home address or other personal information to callers soliciting a donation.

Although Hurricane Dorian is gone, hurricane season doesn’t end until November 30. Are you and your family prepared for the next storm? Make a plan. Collect and inventory supplies. Secure your home and property. Don’t be left out in the dark – having a plan for backup power is key to keeping your family safe and comfortable during a power outage.

For more information on hurricane preparedness, click here. And be sure to sign up for the Cummins Home Generator newsletter to get valuable resources and tips to help your family weather the storm and save money.
 

Cheryl Nelson, Certified Broadcast Meteorologist

Cheryl Nelson

Cheryl Nelson is an Emmy-nominated and AP award-winning Certified Broadcast Meteorologist, TV Host, FEMA-Certified Instructor and Weather and Preparedness Advisor for Cummins. You can visit Cheryl’s website at www.PrepareWithCher.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook @CherylNelsonTV. 

Four Unusual Snowstorms of This Decade

Unusual Snowstorm Picture

It is only October, yet my son is already talking about what to do during snow days. He recalls his memories from last year when students at Minneapolis Public School District enjoyed over 10 days of closings related to cold and snow. As you recall your own joyful snow memories, let’s look back on four unusual snowstorms of this decade. 

 

Unusual location: Aloha, winter!

An island chain in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is one of the world’s most popular vacation spots. With a mild climate featuring a winter high of 78°F and a summer high of 85°F, the tropical paradise is known for its beautiful white beaches, not beautiful white snowflakes. The Aloha state’s tallest volcanoes get a dusting of snow at their peak every year, but the recent blanket of snow at Polipoli Spring State Recreation Area (for the first time, it is believed!) gets the crown for the most unusual winter wonderland.    

Unusual season: April showers bring May snow flurries?!

While most of us are conditioned to expect colder temperatures – maybe even snow – from December to March, Minnesotans typically endure a longer, colder winter. In fact, the Twin Cities are the coldest metropolitan area in the continental United States with an average winter temperature of 10°F! Despite the long, cold winters, the mercury begins to rise in late March to early April, thawing the ground and making room for spring in the southern portions of the state. Unfortunately, spring 2013 came later than usual when over a foot of snow blanketed the state in early May.

Unusual amount: when it snows, it pours

In 1921, Silver Lake, CO set the record for most snowfall in a 24-hour period in the United States when 75 inches of snow fell. We haven’t seen a snowfall like that in modern history, but we’ve seen our share of crippling storms, including the blizzard in January 2016. Described as “one of the great blizzards of the past 100 years in terms of amount of snowfall, size of impacted areas and population affected,” Winter Storm Jonas dumped snow as far south as Alabama and Mississippi with over 27 inches of snow falling in New York City within 24 hours

Unusual impact: you’re grounded!

In the first half of 2019, about 38% of flight delays were the result of weather. Despite weather delays being a common occurrence across the U.S., it’s rare to see the media reporting on flight delays or cancellations. On the contrary, Winter Storm Harper was all over the news in January 2019 due to its impact on air travel when it hit a wide geography from the West Coast into the Great Plains to New England. More than 4,000 flights were cancelled, potentially impacting half million passengers.  

 

These four snowstorms were unusual and unique for many reasons. But power outages are a common result of snow storms. Tree limbs with heavy snow accumulation can break, bringing down power lines. Additionally, heavy snow and ice can collect on the power lines themselves, causing them to break. In some cases, the winds accompanying a snow storm can bring down power lines. Having a plan for backup power will ensure your heat stays on, keeping your family safe and warm for the duration of the power outage. 

Are you and your family prepared for the winter storm season? Start your preparation by checking out 12 Winter Storm Season Prep Tips. And sign up for the Cummins newsletter to get valuable resources and tips, including information on backup power options, to help your family weather the storm. 
 

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Let it snow: Five states with noteworthy snowfall during winter 2018-2019

Winter weather in five states - Cummins

Old Man Winter has proven once again to be unpredictable and relentless. From the December storm that brought snow from Texas east to Virginia and the Carolinas to the late season April blizzard that dumped several feet of snow in the Mideast and Great Plains, the 2018-19 winter was one for the books.

While all 50 states - even Hawaii - get some measurable snow each year, five states experienced noteworthy snowfall in 2018-19 according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:

Maine

It is not surprising to see Maine on this list since a few feet of snow typically fall in the state’s larger cities like Portland and Bangor each year. Yet, Caribou was the snowiest city during the 2018-19 winter with over 160 inches of snow. While Caribou sees an average of 100 inches of snow each winter, 2018-19 was unusual snowy with an additional 55 inches blanketing the town. The “long, hard winter” began with almost 30 inches of snow falling in November and continued for the next record-setting 163 days with at least one inch of snow covering the ground! 

Michigan

While southeast Michigan saw below average snowfall during the 2018-19 winter, northern Michigan experienced more snow than usual with 222 inches falling in Marquette – 20 inches more than usual! Not to be outdone, more than 140 inches of snow blanked Sault Ste. Marie – 25 inches more than normal. The small town located on the northeastern end of Michigan's Upper Peninsula experienced it’s snowiest February on record with 45.1 inches of snow. Even more brutal than the snow: the temperatures. The mercury was below freezing for all but a few hours in February. 

New York

Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, the list goes on and on when it comes to New York cities with noteworthy snowfall during the 2018-19 season. For the 12th consecutive winter, Buffalo saw over 100 inches of snow. With 118 inches of snow, this was Buffalo’s second snowiest winter in the last decade. Winter Storms Harper, Indra and Jaden, along with lake-effect snow, contributed to close to 60 inches of snowfall in the second half of January alone! 75 miles east, Rochester saw just shy of 100 inches of snow, making this a surprisingly below-average winter in terms of snowfall. 

Alaska

On a typical mid-October day in Alaska, you’ll see a high near 40 and a low in the upper 20s. It’s no surprise that the first freeze and first snow typically occur around this time. October 2018, however, saw a much different story with highs in the 50s up to 60 on October 10! With winter off to a slow start, Juneau, Alaska’s capital, had lower than average snowfall for the sixth winter in a row with over 40 inches of snow. Meanwhile, more than 60 inches of snow fell in Nome – over 35 inches fell in February alone, making it the town’s snowiest February since 1920.

Minnesota

Ahead of winter 2018-19, The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicted a warmer-than-normal winter for Minnesota – in stark contrast to the “teeth-chattering cold winter” the Farmer’s Almanac predicted. So who was right??? Well, both were partially right. On October 14, snow fell the earliest it had in 9 years in the Twin Cities. Despite the early snow, temperatures were above average until late January with only 10 inches of snow falling. Old Man Winter paid an unexpected and lengthy visit in February, leaving a record 39 inches of snow on the ground. St. Paul, the state capital, ended winter with over 50 inches of snow. 

The season’s first snow brings more joy and excitement than actual snowflakes. Whether you live somewhere that experiences 100+ inches a year like some of the cities we just discussed or you live somewhere with a milder winter, it’s important to prepare you and your family for whatever Old Man Winter may bring, including the possibility of power outages resulting from snow and ice.

Preparedness is Key to Protecting Your Family and Home During a Winter Storm

  • Stock up on necessities such as bottled water and non-perishable food (like canned goods and granola bars) in the event you’re snowed in.
  • Stretch your muscles before shoveling snow and take periodic breaks while shoveling to prevent overexertion and lower your risk of heart attack.
  • Keep a prep kit including blankets and sand in your vehicle in case if you get stranded in the snow.
  • Consider getting a whole house generator to ensure your home stays warm and cozy despite the freezing temperatures outside.

For more winter storm safety and preparedness tips, check out our 12 Winter Storm Season Prep Tips. And be sure to sign up for the Cummins Home Generators newsletter to get valuable resources to help your family weather the storm, safely and comfortably while saving money.
 

Cheryl Nelson, Certified Broadcast Meteorologist

Cheryl Nelson

Cheryl Nelson is an Emmy-nominated and AP award-winning Certified Broadcast Meteorologist, TV Host, FEMA-Certified Instructor and Weather and Preparedness Advisor for Cummins. You can visit Cheryl’s website at www.PrepareWithCher.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook @CherylNelsonTV. 

Bomb cyclone, graupel and polar vortex: Three confusing winter weather terms explained

Winter weather terms explained - Cummins

With some parts of the United States already seeing snow, it’s only a matter of time before we start hearing terms like bomb cyclone, graupel and polar vortex again. But are these weather phenomena as scary as they sound? While these terms are common among meteorologists like myself, the media has started using them more in recent years, causing confusion (and fear) among their audiences. 

Before the cold sets in, I’m here to provide a brief explanation of these terms to help ease your mind.

Bomb Cyclone

Sounds apocalyptic, right? Sure, the name sounds scary, but it’s not the end of the world. A bomb cyclone is a storm that intensifies rapidly, like an explosive bomb.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration defines a bomb cyclone as a storm undergoing “bombogenesis,” which means the pressure drops dramatically (at least 24 millibars) and quickly (within a 24-hour period). Typically, this happens to storms over water. However, when a bomb cyclone occurs over land, take it seriously since these storms bring strong winds, heavy precipitation and colder temperatures, even causing blizzard conditions.

Graupel

When weather conditions are conducive, falling snowflakes aloft may come in contact with super-cooled water droplets called rime. Despite having a temperature of minus 40 degrees Fahrenheit/Celsius, rime is liquid, and the droplets freeze once they touch a snowflake to become rimed snow called graupel.

Graupel has a whitish round snow crystal inside, making it softer than sleet. To put it simply, graupel is a tiny snowball with a coating of clear ice surrounding it. Unlike sleet, which is solid ice, graupel falls apart easily when picked up. 

Polar Vortex

The media talks about the polar vortex when the “door” from the Earth’s poles opens, allowing frigid air to escape. This cold air is typically locked up in large areas of low-pressure surrounding Earth’s north and south poles. The polar vortex strengthens in the winter and occasionally expands, sending arctic air southward (in the Northern Hemisphere) with the jets tream, which separates warm air to the south from cold air to the north. When much of the U.S. experiences extreme cold and record-setting low temperatures, the polar vortex is typically to blame. 

Some parts of the country have already experienced their first snow, so make sure you and your family are prepared for extreme cold, winter storms and potential power outages. To ensure your comfort and safety, check out 12 Winter Storm Season Prep Tips. And be sure to sign up for the Cummins Home Generators newsletter to get valuable resources and tips to help your family weather the storm.
 

Cheryl Nelson, Certified Broadcast Meteorologist

Cheryl Nelson

Cheryl Nelson is an Emmy-nominated and AP award-winning Certified Broadcast Meteorologist, TV Host, FEMA-Certified Instructor and Weather and Preparedness Advisor for Cummins. You can visit Cheryl’s website at www.PrepareWithCher.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook @CherylNelsonTV. 

A change of seasons: Five easy ways to prepare for winter

Cummins - 5 Winter Prep Tips

While the leaves change colors and fall to the ground in some parts of the country, the snowflakes will soon be in the air as cold temperatures push in. Winter is right around the corner and now is the time to ensure you and your family are prepared for winter storms and extreme cold. 

Here are five easy ways to be better prepared:

1. Know your risk. How prepared is your region for winter weather? How well do residents in your community drive on icy roads? Southern snow storms take more time to recuperate from because they have less snow removal equipment. If you live in the south, prepare for schools and businesses to be closed. Keep busy when snowed in with our suggestions for snow day activities for your kids.

2. Build a preparedness kit, keeping in mind the comfort of your loved ones including pets. I update my kit every year

  • Make sure you and your family can survive without power for at least 3 days. Invest in a generator if you don’t have one. A home standby generator like the Cummins QuietConnect will automatically restore your power the moment it goes off, whereas a portable generator like the Cummins Onan is a great option for those with lower power requirements or live in areas less susceptible to severe weather and power outages
  • Keep a preparedness kit in your car! I never leave home without my water bottle, cell phone, hand sanitizer and umbrella. I keep other important items such as a flashlight, blanket, first aid kit, granola bars, ice scraper/snow brush, shovel, windshield washer fluid and cell phone charger in my car. Make sure your tires are in good shape, you have at least a half tank of gas and your car is running smoothly.  

3. Winterize your home:

  • Check windows and doors for drafts. Caulk and apply weather stripping if necessary.
  • Have your HVAC system inspected and replace furnace filter.
  • Clean chimney, wood stove and gutters.
  • Have a contractor inspect your roof.
  • Install a programmable thermostat to keep your house temperature lower while you’re away.
  • Test your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
  • During periods of extreme cold, allow your faucets to drip.

4. Start a conversation with your family, neighbors and employer. Do you have a plan for your family and pets? Do you have elderly neighbors or neighbors with special needs who would need help if they lost power? Does your employer expect you to be at work during a winter storm?  

5. Don’t overexert yourself when outdoors in the cold weather. According to the American Heart Association, the strain of shoveling snow can take a toll on your body and can increase your chances of having a heart attack. While you may think you’re OK, someone you know may not be. Take an American Red Cross CPR/First Aid/AED course to learn life-saving skills! Pet CPR courses are also available in some areas.  

Preparedness is power. Don’t be left out in the cold this winter. Sign up for the Cummins Home Generation newsletter to learn more about how a home standby generator can benefit your family, including keeping you warm during the next winter power outage. 

Cheryl Nelson, Certified Broadcast Meteorologist

Cheryl Nelson

Cheryl Nelson is an Emmy-nominated and AP award-winning Certified Broadcast Meteorologist, TV Host, FEMA-Certified Instructor and Weather and Preparedness Advisor for Cummins. You can visit Cheryl’s website at www.PrepareWithCher.com and follow her on Twitter and Facebook @CherylNelsonTV. 

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